By Alex Akao
The presidential candidate of New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso has vowed to tackle major maritime industry problems including Cabotage regime challenges, port access chaos, non-disbursement of Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF), among others, if elected into office in 2023.
Kwankwaso made this promise at a townhall meeting with maritime stakeholders Tuesday, organized by Prime Maritime Project, at Sheraton Hotel, Lagos.
Lamenting that so many things have gone wrong in the nation’s maritime domain, he opined that with his experience as a former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, former Governor, former Minister of Defense and a former Senator, avails him some basic understanding of the sector and especially its challenges.
His words: “I can still remember the days of the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL) with its beautiful ships flying Nigeria’s flag across the globe. Why did it die? What has become of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF)? Why has it not been disbursed to beneficiaries? From my little knowledge of the sector, a lot of questions are begging for answers!”
“It is also my desire to see that the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and other regulatory agencies must be made to perform efficiently and effectively. The observed high level corruption in the system has to be tackled to improve the productivity at the ports.”
Describing the persistent appointment of non-professionals to hold key leadership positions in the sector as an anomaly, he promised that if elected, only maritime professionals will be in-charge of the sector.
He also noted that the existing port infrastructure were originally designed for a population of less than 50 million people in the 1950s with less than 2 million cargo throughput but the same facilities now cater for over 200 million people in 2022.
Meanwhile, he assured that the party’s agenda captures the core maritime sector opportunities and challenges.
On his part, the Chairman of the occasion, who is also Chairman of Nigerian Ports Consultative Council (PCC), Otunba Kunle Folarin lamented that previous presidents had promised alot but didn’t deliver.
The PCC boss canvased for the establishment of a seperate Ministry of Maritime Affairs to expedituously address the challenges with the Cabotage regime, non-disbursement of Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF), forex difficulty for shippers, poor incentives for indigenous operators, among others.
“We need a new maritime agenda and more attention from the Presidency on this sector which has potentials to exceed the conservative N7trillion projection when you take cognisance of using water for dams, irrigation, drinkable water, among others.”
He called for a total port reform which encourages more indigenous participation, better greenfield development projects, free trade zones that allow for economic growth and a review of the current landlord model of port operations.
Also speaking at the summit, the Founder of NNPP, Dr. Boniface Aniebonam charged maritime sector operators to have confidence in Kwankwaso’s candidacy, adding that he would compel him to prioritize maritime issues.
The NNPP Founder, who also founded the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), argued that it is a perfect time to change Nigeria’s governance approach because there is a total system collapse in the nation.
“The frustrations and hardship is too much. It’s time to change to a new order. Kwankwaso is a presidential candidate who doesn’t have any baggage and what isn’t available in other parties is a chairman who is from maritime. I will compel Kwankwaso to listen and expedite maritime issues,” Aniebonam said.
Speaking on behalf of the organizers, PMP, the Chief Operating Officer, Elder Asu Beks revealed that the maritime sector had 15million votes to deliver to anyone who presents a convincing maritime agenda.
“Today’s event is the first in a series of town hall meetings being arranged by our team, PMP, to invite the presidential candidates of the 18 political parties to undertake a social contract with critical maritime stakeholders. We must, however, congratulate the NNPP for leading the way in this novel move by the PMP,” Asu Beks said.
The PMP Team is led by three veteran maritime journalists; Chief Executive Officer of Maritime Media Limited, Elder Asu Beks; Chief Executive Officer of Kings Communications Limited, publishers of MMS Plus newspaper, Mr. Kingsley Anaroke; and the President of Maritime Journalists Association of Nigeria (MAJAN), Mr. Ray Ugochukwu.
Maritime stakeholders ranging from freight agents, shippers, Maritime Worker’s Union of Nigeria (MWUN), master mariners, among others, graced the occasion.